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Opinion

Adjusting to college takes time, but happens gradually

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February 19, 2016

Two years ago, I was certain that college wasn’t for me. I was researching online degrees. I was looking for jobs that didn’t require a college education. I was trying to convince my parents that going home and working at a video rental store for a few years would make me perfectly happy. I promised them that I would go back to school eventually, even though I didn’t truly believe it.

It’s not that I didn’t like the campus or the people or my program or anything. In fact, I felt oddly comforted the first time I stepped onto this campus, even though it was a four hour drive from my hometown. Four hours is quite the drive, but I figured it would get easier and the homesickness would shrink and I would make a lifelong group of friends within the first year. Essentially, I expected to have my act together within a month.

I was wrong. I still can’t believe how wrong I was. By the end of freshman year, I had made acquaintances in my program. I had been invited to a few things with the girls from my hall wing, like going to the movies and hockey games. I had maintained all As in my classes. I actually had one of my professors call me into his office after turning in a final project to ask if I was a junior or a senior because he thought I should apply for a specific internship based on my coursework. But I was miserable. I was sleeping weird hours, staying awake until sunrise and sleeping until 5 p.m. some days. I could walk across campus and back without seeing a single person I knew well enough to talk to. I thought things were going to be like that for the next four years. To me, that was college, and I wanted nothing to do with it.

I made an agreement with my parents to tough it out for the rest of the year. When housing sign up for the following year came around, I agreed to stay for another year only if I got into the sophomore residence hall. I did, much to my own disappointment.

Things started to get a little better during my sophomore year. I spent some time with my new roommate and her friends. I became friends with one of my current roommates. I got to a point where I could consider people in my program friends and not just the people I said hi to when I saw them in class or in the cafeteria. But still, I wasn’t happy.

Let’s jump to now, spring semester of my junior year. It feels like a different world. Seeing my news pieces in print is a regular occurrence. I’m a page editor at the campus newspaper. I represent the newspaper on an actual committee that has the power to make important decisions. Last semester, I took a trip with two of my friends to see another friend’s old band play two hours away one weekend just because we could. I accepted the chance to go to a journalism seminar in Middleton. I’ve been notified of a formal invitation to join UWRF’s chapter of the academic honor society Phi Kappa Phi. Last month, I said hi to nine different people just going from one class to lunch. That’s an extreme example, but it illustrates my point that things do get better. I’m not sure when it happened or how, but gradually things just came together.

I’m not saying everything is perfect. It’s nowhere near perfect. I get homesick and extremely upset over how much I miss my cat. I actually still cry sometimes when I leave home. I still stress about little things more than I should. The thing is, I’m no longer hopeless. I no longer fear that I can’t or don’t deserve to succeed. I have a set of people here who I can go to when I need them. If freshman me could have anticipated how much things would change, maybe I wouldn’t have been so convinced I would fail.

Katie Galarno is a student at UW-River Falls.